Nitrous oxide emissions from near-zero water exchange brackish recirculating aquaculture systems

Uri Yogev, Adiel Atari, Amit Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The development of intensive recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) with low water exchange has accelerated in recent years as a result of environmental, economic and other concerns. In these systems, fish are commonly grown at high density, 50 to 150 kg/m3, using high-protein (30%–60%) feeds. Typically, the RAS consists of a solid treatment and a nitrification unit; in more advanced RAS, there is an additional denitrification step. Nitrous oxide (N2O), a byproduct during nitrification and denitrification processes, is a potent greenhouse gas that destroys the ozone layer. The aim of this study was to measure and assess N2O emissions from a near-zero discharge land-based saline RAS. N2O flux was monitored from the RAS's fish tank, and moving-bed nitrification and activated-sludge (with intrinsic C source) denitrification reactors. N2O emission potential was also analyzed in the laboratory. N2O flux from the denitrification reactors ranged between 6.5 and 48 mg/day, equivalent to 1.27 ± 1.01% of the removed nitrate-N. Direct analysis from the fish tank and nitrification reactors could not be performed due to high aeration, which diluted the N2O concentration to below detection limits. Thus, its potential emission was estimated in the laboratory: from the fishponds, it was negligible; from the nitrification reactor, it ranged between 0.4 and 2.8% of the total ammonia-N oxidized. The potential N2O emission from the denitrification reactor was 3.72 ± 2.75% of the reduced nitrate-N, within the range found in the direct measurement. Overall, N2O emission during N transformation in a RAS was evaluated to be 885 mg/kg feed or 1.36 g/kg fish production, accounting for 1.23% of total N application. Consequently, it is estimated that N2O emission from aquaculture currently accounts for 2.4% of the total agricultural N2O emission, but will decrease to 1.7% by 2030.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-610
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • Aquaculture
  • Denitrification
  • Nitrification
  • Nitrous oxide (NO)
  • Recirculating aquaculture system (RAS)


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